The Minnesota Honey Producers Association has a whole bunch of good things going for them and in this episode we learn about their new Honey Ambassador Program (notice we didn’t say Honey Queen Program), plus the state wide habitat program. First...
The Minnesota Honey Producers Association has a whole bunch of good things going for them and in this episode we learn about their new Honey Ambassador Program (notice we didn’t say Honey Queen Program), plus the state wide habitat program.
First off, we talk with Becky Masterman, who’ve we had as a guest on the podcast in the past. Rebecca is with the University of Minnesota Bee lab and is part of the Bee Squad which has been very involved in both of these programs, working to get people together to work together to work better at producing habitat.
We also talk with Josh Munoz, a Marine veteran and is the first MHPA Honey Bee Ambassador promoting honey and beekeeping in the state. Josh also runs the Minnesota Veterans Bee Program. He teaches agriculture in a St. Paul high school focusing a lot on habitat and honey bees and is working to shape high school ag curriculum.
Also on today’s episode, we talk with Dan Whitney, past Minnesota Honey Producers President and a commercial honey producer, who spends a good amount of time in Texas running over 2000 colonies, and produces nucs and queens each spring. Dan was instrumental in getting the Ambassador program going and in very active in the new Minnesota Habitat Program.
All told, 3 very active people getting a lot of good work done to better Minnesota for bees, beekeepers and beekeeping. Listen today!
Also in today’s episode, Ed Colby returns with a story from his book, “A Beekeeper’s Life: Tales of a Beekeeper." In previous readings, Ed has talked about keeping bees on Granny's property. In this episode, Ed shares with us a remembrance of her upon her passing.
We hope you enjoy the episode. Leave comments and questions in the Comments Section of the episode's website.
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Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; A Fresh New Start by Pete Morse; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
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Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
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Jeff: Thanks, Sherry, and thank you, Global Patties. Each week, we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather we get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen. From the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the subscriptions, the recorders, they enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American Beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today.
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No doubt, a strong state beekeeping organization is beneficial to beekeepers not just for that state, but ultimately for all beekeepers. One such state organization is the Minnesota Honey Producers Association. On today's episode, we bring you three of the association's representatives to talk about their Honey Ambassador Program. In 2019, the Minnesota Honey Producers transitioned their Honey Queen Program to an ambassadors program, opening up the position to anyone who is enthusiastic about honeybees, and to help promote the beekeeping industry across the state.
This is a 15-month appointment. Today we talk to the very first ambassador of the new program, marine Corps veteran, Josh Munoz. We also talk with Ambassador program coordinator, Rebecca Masterman, who you may remember from our Minnesota Bee Squad episode from February, 2021, and Dan Whitney, a Minnesota Honey Producer Association beekeeper, and a Texas queen breeder. It is an educational episode we are happy to present to you today. First Ed Colby returns to read to us from his book, A Beekeeper's Life. Tales from the Bottom Board, with a remembrance of Granny.
Ed Colby: The passing of Granny appeared in the May 2009 issue of Bee Culture Magazine. Six weeks ago, as I was leaving the familiar clutter of her cigarette-scented kitchen, Granny followed me to the door. "You should stop by more often," she said, with the sweetest sincerity. She was a people person. She knew I drove past her house every Sunday evening, and she loved nothing more than company. I promised and I meant it, but I never saw her again. She was only 85. People would ask me how she was doing and I'd say, "She's great. She looks 100, but she acts 50."
She definitely didn't wear those orthopedic grainy shoes or use a walker, or spend any time getting her hair done. She chopped off her waist-long braid years ago, but she still wore the same sneakers, Levi's, ragged denim jacket, and US ski team ball cap. For years, Granny didn't have much good to say about honeybees. When she was a child, she nearly died from a bee sting. She was violently allergic. She'd go on and on if you let her. Then, in her golden years, she retired to the garden, and guess what? She decided that she wanted bees to pollinate her beloved raspberries and her squash, and her apples.
Would I mind leaving a hive or two behind her shed on Barbara's vacant lot next door? It would be wonderful for my bees if they could visit her cucumber blossoms, wouldn't it? To be honest, Granny never was my granny. We did go back to when the world was young. She was a mentor and an icon, an irreverent mountain-climbing, deer-hunting, powder-skiing, Aspen flop house owner, who would rent you a bed in the bunkhouse for $1.50. Her ski bump tenants called her Mrs. Mack, or simply The Manager. She was like a mother, but she was oh, so cool. I adored her. I still do.
Now, 40 years later, even if putting bees at her place seemed an inconvenience, how could I say no? The first summer when I dropped off a couple of weak sister hives, Granny said offhandedly, "There's a bear that comes around at night." Oh, great, a bear. I erected a solar electric fence. Then I said to Granny, "Do you have any bacon? I need to drape some on my fence, so when the bear comes sniffing, he'll tickle his nose." "I can take care of this," Granny said enthusiastically. "Are you sure? You're allergic, remember?" "Don't worry about me," she said.
My bees made no surplus that summer, but those pathetic little darlings wouldn't have made honey in the Garden of Eden. Yet, Granny was ecstatic about her improved yield in the garden. The following year, I again brought two colonies, and right away one went queenless. When I caught a little swarm in town, I united it with the queenless hive. The result was two super honey surplus for that hive, mostly on late summer rabbit brush. Hey, I was doing this for Granny, but maybe this wasn't such a bad spot. After a few more good seasons, last summer I dropped off eight strong colonies, and they were my overall best producers.
Last Wednesday morning, I was thinking, "This year I better get a pickup load of bees to Granny's in time for the dandelions." When I went into the house there was a message from granny's friend, Monk. "I have some bad news," he said, and my heart sank. Of course, heart attack or stroke. It had to be you don't smoke 1 million-plus unfiltered Pall Malls, live to be 85, and then cheat the doctors. No, she was returning from a visit with her best friend Barbara who lives directly across Highway 82 from Granny. At 10:00 PM while crossing the road, Granny was struck by two cars and killed instantly
Understand that Granny and Barbara were friends for 40 years. They lived 100 yards apart, and they visited every day. Barbara always drove across Highway 82 to Granny's, and when Granny visited Barbara, she always walked. That's the way they did it for a quarter century. As for the particulars, we'll never know. Granny may have had difficulty judging the distance of oncoming cars. She occasionally lost her balance, she might have fallen.
Traffic on four-lane Highway 82 can be horrendous. Barbara said Granny sometimes made it halfway across before waiting in the middle turn lane for a break in the last two lanes. In my mind's eye, I see the surprise on her face in the headlights, I feel the horrible thud. Her ball cap flies off as her poor, frail granny body floats through the night, her little arms and legs flying every which way until finally, she lands like some ragdoll, clear down by Barbara's vacant lot down where I keep the bees.
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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbial site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey everybody, welcome back. We are glad you're here. Sitting across the virtual Zoom table right now are three representatives from the Minnesota Honey Producers Association. We'll start with Rebecca Masterman, Dan Whitney, and Josh Munoz. Welcome, everybody to the podcast.
Rebecca Masterman: It's good to be here.
Kim: It's good to meet all of you. I've known Rebecca for a while, but Joshua and Daniel, welcome on board.
Josh Munoz: Thanks for having us.
Jeff: Minnesota Honey Producers has put together a really exciting and innovative program to bring people into beekeeping, promote honey, promote beekeepers within the state. Minnesota obviously, as anybody who knows it, and any of our listeners who've been with us for the last several years know, Minnesota is very leading edge in everything beekeeping. The Minnesota Honey Producers doing what they're doing with this program we'll talk about today is no big surprise. It's a welcome thing. Rebecca, why don't you introduce your group, and Dan, and let's just get going.
Rebecca: I'm happy to be here as the-- Actually, I'm a volunteer for the Minnesota Honey Producers Association. I served on the board for I think about six years. Now I just stay on a couple of committees. It's an organization that's very impressive. We have a lot of commercial beekeepers as members, as well as some sideliners and backyard beekeepers. One commercial beekeeper who's actually a past president is with us today, Dan Whitney. Dan is a queen producer as well as owner of the Dan's Honey Company and Lone Star Queen Company.
Josh is somebody who, while I was on the Bee Squad, I met him and brought him into the program to work for the Bee Veterans Program. Josh is both a Bee Lab employee, and he is a key instructor for the Bee Squad, Bee Veterans Program. He is a Marine, and he is also, which works out really well for the honey producers, he's a teacher in the St. Paul school system, and he's an agriculture high school teacher. Dan, why don't you go on?
Dan Whitney: All right, I'll go first. I've been keeping bees commercially since 1994. The guy I learned to raise queens from was a foreman for Jim Payson of JZBZ. I was vice president for nine years in the Minnesota Honey Producers at a changing point with our relationship with the Department of Ag in the past, we didn't have-- For 30, 40 years, we had a adversarial relationship with them. We got a new change in our Ag commissioner and they were willing to sit down and listen to us.
I think that really helped us get to where we are today just by having someone willing to listen to us. I produced about 1,505 frame nucs. I do about 25,000 queen cells in Texas. We do about 4,000 queens in Texas, and then this year we did about 1,000 mated queens in Minnesota. We just have 2,000 qualities for honey production up here in Minnesota, and then we'll back to Texas and start our year over.
Kim: Sounds like a good year and sounds like a lot of work.
Dan: A lot of work. I got good employees. I got Hondurans from H2A Program. Two of them were working on getting their green cards, who are very close to that. They're upper 20s. They got serious girlfriends. They're a little old-fashioned. They don't want to get married until they have their ducks in a row, but they're getting close to that. If they want to get citizenship, we'll help sponsor that too, or facilitate that if that's what they want.
I keep trying to talk-- I don't think my oldest son, I don't think any of my boys, my oldest son is 14, I don't see him taking my business over. I just half-jokingly tell these guys that they should buy my business when I'm 60 or 65, but they don't seem to-- I don't know, they don't seem to think they could do it, but they're the ones out doing the work. I teach 'em and tell 'em what to do, and show 'em. They got all the knowledge, and that's probably the case with many commercial outfits. Our workers are the ones that have the knowledge, maybe not our own children anymore. We'll see in the future, I guess.
Kim: It sounds like it's working for you, Daniel. I'm just going to be real uncautious here and say if I wanted one of those queens, how can I get a hold of one of those queens or one of the nucs that you produce?
Dan: I guess we have a Facebook page and a website. We'll update it this fall. We'll probably do it in November before we go down to the TVA meeting in Temple this year. Look me up that way.
Kim: Joshua, your introduction from Rebecca was about this long. You're as busy as Daniel doing different kinds of things.
Josh: I don't even know where to start really. I guess I can start with my transition out of the military. I joined the marine corps right out of high school. I stationed in Japan almost my entire four years in the marine corps. Once I transitioned out, I lived in Houston for a while. Once I finished generals in community college, I decided to go to the University of Minnesota, which I did. One of the reasons why I selected the University of Minnesota was because all the research and opportunities to work as I studied. That was one of the reasons why I chose University of Minnesota.
My degree that I went to go study was agriculture, communications, and marketing. The reason I chose that degree was simply looking at Minnesota as the opportunities with jobs. I looked up just the opportunities within the industries like General Mills and Cargill, these big Fortune 500 companies around Minnesota. That's what gravitated me to agriculture in the first place, because I didn't have much of a background. Going to school, I knew how much time and money was at stake, so I wanted to make sure that I was going to get a job out of college.
Kim: [chuckles] That's a good goal.
Josh: I teach now, but I tell my students all the time to really look at the industries around the community that you live in, and that's what you should go study. Minnesota is just such a great state in terms of agriculture, so I go about Minnesota all the time with my students. The first job I was working with to get really into agriculture, I guess, was actually working with maize and corn, and with the department of plant genetics, which I'm glad that I did start out that way just because just corn in general is such an important crop to learn about.
It didn't last very long. I think I worked there for a year. During a internship I met Becky, who was just very random at a different internship. I introduced myself. She found out I was in the marine corps and I was at the University of Minnesota, and she talked about this Bee Veterans Program. Never worked with bees before. I took that up and I think I went to the next class she had available. That first bee veterans class working with bees, I was automatically-- Right away I was hooked. I loved it. I stayed around as a participant. Becky found out probably I was working at a lab around there, but I let her know.
I was like, I want to switch to the Bee Lab. I think I love this a little bit more than working with corn. That's pretty much what happened. I transitioned over. I worked at the lab for a little bit and then start taking a larger role in the Bee Veterans Program, which I love because with that background, just working with veterans, definitely brings me back to my military days. I can start seeing the benefits of working with bees, especially for veterans.
I finished school, I finished my undergrad degree. I'm still working with the U of M, with the Bee Lab. I got an opportunity to teach. I wasn't too sure, I never thought of being a teacher, but with the opportunities and helping me pay for grad school teaching agriculture, I never thought I would love it. Here I am, I'm now teaching at the public school here for St. Paul public schools, teaching agriculture. What makes me love teaching agriculture is really the students and the students really appreciate and wanting to learn about agriculture.
I think at Como Park at my high school, I had the highest registered classes, because students just want to learn about agriculture. Maybe it's because the foundation I have set is starting with beekeeping, because anything with agriculture you could stem off of beekeeping. For example, forging crops and cattle, like alfalfa. I could stem anything out of beekeeping, which makes it fun. It's truly the foundation of agriculture. I truly believe that. I think without beekeepers, without the pollination services bees provide, we'd be in trouble as an industry as a whole in agriculture.
Jeff: Hey, Joshua, I want to go back real quick to what you're talking about your veterans program. As a veteran and coming in, and not having any experience in beekeeping prior to meeting Rebecca, what would you tell other veterans who are looking for something? What would you tell them to get them to look into a veterans beekeeping program? What aspect about that?
Josh: I think, especially for veterans who are just transitioning out or have no experience like I did, I really just tell them to come and just check it out, and just have fun with it. Nothing at high stakes or anything. You don't even have to get into the bees yourself. Just observe and take a look, and be part of the community. That's the pitch I'll probably give them. Just come for the community and see if you like the bees probably maybe after.
Usually, it works out that way because veterans that come into the program, they start meeting other veterans and they have a lot of similarities. They start talking about bees. Some have more experience than others, so you can relate a lot with other veterans in that part. I just tell them to come for the community. Come check out and hang out with people, build your network. On top of that maybe taste some honey. Have some honey, start understanding and learning about honey and beekeeping in general.
Kim: We've talked to several people over the last few years who've been working either directly with or indirectly with veterans programs and they seem to be both beneficial for the people taking the classes and the people teaching the classes. It's a good thing to get involved in for 100 reasons plus, I think. Glad to hear it's working for you. I'm thinking that if there's somebody listening who would like more information on how to get this started, they could touch base with you?
Josh: Absolutely. Yes, you can email with the Bee Squad. We're actually teaching our last class this Sunday. Very excited about this class. We are going to try to expand it a little bit for this next summer. There's a lot of plans going on for our next bee veteran season and I'm pretty excited for that.
Kim: It sounds good. Like I said, if there's somebody listening who has been thinking in the back of their mind this might be something I might be interested in, I'm sure Joshua can help you get going and then it's just get out of the way, because there's a lot to do and a lot of people who want to help, I think. Josh, you mentioned the Minnesota Honey Producers Program, and I know in the background here there's something going on with the Minnesota Honey Producers changing the way they promote their organization. Am I careful here? [laughs]
Josh: Yes. When Becky pretty much, for the first time, tell me about this program, this new ambassador program, right away as an ag teacher, it reminded me of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way for the dairy industry. Because I'm a big state fair fan. I've been going there since I was a little kid. Even for me, I remember the Princess Kay of the Milky Way getting the butter sculpture, and that was their big demonstration to promote the dairy industry. For this program, I felt like I couldn't even do that if I wanted to, that Princess Kay, if I really wanted to. That's what it reminded me of.
The transition from going from the Queen program to the Ambassador program, all it really does is really open up and includes more than just one gender, I guess. It just includes more people who's passionate about beekeeping to promote honey, talk about bees, go to county fairs, go to other farms, bring people together, demonstrate the state fair, taste honey. It opens up opportunities for more people who are passionate about honey. I think that's what the transition to the new Ambassador program is all about. It just includes more people for these opportunities to talk about something great like honey.
Kim: It certainly broadens the horizons of what that person could do. I got to take a half a step back here. I always wondered what they did with that 150 pounds of butter at the end of the state fair every year. [laughs]
Rebecca: I know, actually. If I'm not mistaken, it gets used at a corn roast. Dan, is that right?
Dan: I don't know. I've seen it at the FFA building and I've seen big chunks taken out of it.
Maybe the people in the blue jackets have a corn roast or something. It gets--
Jeff: I was going to suggest they check out the waffle houses along the interstate for more.
Rebecca: I'm going to propose that we do a wax sculpture of Josh next summer at the fair. Can anybody chip away at that?
Josh: The bee beard is that demonstration, how I saw it. If that program has that sculpture, the butter sculpture, what the bastard program has now, is not just the honey tasting and talking to people, but we have this demonstration to do the bee beard and maybe more in the next state fairs. Who knows? Right now, that demonstration is great. A lot of people show up to the state fair to see that demonstration, and when that demonstration of the bee beard is done, people are sticking around tasting honey and asking questions. That's our equivalent to that, to the butter sculpture, really.
Kim: I like the image of a wax sculpture of Joshua. He could definitely then burn the candle at both ends.
Josh: That sounds cool too. We're going to get another artist too for that.
Jeff: I'm curious on the Ambassador program, because I know that many state organizations have still the Honey Queen program. To be the bee on the wall, I'm curious in the decision-making process the association went to go from the Queen program to an Ambassador program. I don't need to hear all the dirt, but just what were some of the key points of the discussions that might help other organizations who are also considering this transition?
Dan: I was past president at-- We kicked it around for a number of years. It's like, ah. We just weren't getting enough young women candidates coming forward. You go a year or two, or three without anyone coming forward to represent us within the state of Minnesota, let alone going to ABF. That pool just seemed to dry up over the years. We're just limiting the one gender.
Let's open it up. Let's take the age restriction off. Perhaps in the future, we could have junior ambassadors or someone's 65 years old, as long as they have the passion, and if they're disseminating good information, I think that's the way-- We need a representation. I think on our last December board meeting we're like, "All right, let's just do it." We voted on it, and here we are.
Jeff: I applaud Minnesota Honey Producers for making that decision. I think that's fabulous. Let's take this opportunity to take a quick break to hear from one of our sponsors.
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Kim: The Ambassador program is interesting for sure. I know the Minnesota Honey Producers are involved in a lot of other programs. You get the Bee Lab up there and all of the things that are going on there, but there's something-- it's a habitat program you've got started. Tell me about that.
Rebecca: One of the reasons we have a Habitat committee is because, Dan, when he served as president, he just couldn't keep quiet about the need for more habitat, and so it was brought up over and over and over again. We decided that in order to actually get the job done and not only inform members about why Habitat was important, or connect us to landowners and farmers, or governmental agencies, in order to do that, we wanted to make it a little bit more formal and have an actual group of people from the organization who would meet regularly and focus on Habitat and different programs that would support Habitat for the beekeepers and the bees.
Dan: I just want to say too, it seemed like within our organization, Habitat has fingers in all of our groups. We have a research committee, we have an education committee, promotion legislative committee, and the Habitat committee, it just touches everything. It's just too much for one person. Our vice president and president, they're the ones that go to the legislators and meet with the Department of Ag, and stuff like that. It's too much, and let's get our committee chairs and stuff, and whoever wants to be on this Habitat committee, just join in.
What we discovered, and Becky can probably talk with us too, we discovered a lot of these state agencies, whether it's MnDOT, Department of Transportation, DNR, Department of Ag, Public Utilities Commissions, all these people have been working for a number of years on pollinator, not maybe the honeybee habitat. Of course we want to steer stuff toards honeybees, but they've all been working on projects, or have pilot projects in the wings that they haven't implemented. All these agencies are doing good things or attempting to, but they're not communicating to each other.
We were surprised. We've had some podcasts or webinars that Becky's put on, and we've had some of these people from these agencies, we're just stunned. We're the beekeepers and we didn't know these things were happening. We're in the infancy. Maybe we can be the connection and maybe we can get these agencies to work together and work together with us on some projects, is what our dream is, like I guess. Becky, what do you have to add?
Rebecca: I've been on the bandwagon to try to get every single beekeeping group out there to start their own habitat committee. It can take a number of different forms. It can take efforts to put flowers in the ground. It can take efforts to influence legislation. It can take a number of different shapes. We started it, like we started the Ambassador program, not quite knowing what it would good was going to look like, but at least having a group that could respond to different opportunities, explore opportunities, and then build itself based upon what the feedback was from the members, and what the feedback was from the different program efforts that we would have.
It is in its infancy still, but I'm very excited about how much we've accomplished. The webinars we have, they're called Habitat Hours. We open them up to all beekeepers in Minnesota, not just the beekeepers in our organization. We had the Minnesota Department of Transportation as well as the board of water and soil resources. We really didn't know what to expect. I think we were a little worried they'd be boring hours. They were exciting. I keep them at an hour and and close it in an hour, but we could have got another 30 minutes because we were interested. What a great surprise.
Kim: Too often that's the case is you've got people isolated doing their own thing in their own corner, and not knowing who else is doing what, and not talking to each other. Finally, when you get somebody who will answer the phone when you call, all sorts of things can happen. I have to go back and ask a quick question of that, but with 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, you don't have enough flowers for all your bees.
Rebecca: I can't believe you asked that question. According to the data, according to the USDA data, we don't because our honey production yield per colony has been going down since they started recording the numbers in this 1970s. Our habitat committee now has that graph. That's a great question. Now every state can go look at those USDA numbers and actually see is honey production going up or down? If honey production per colony is going down, guess what folks? We have a habitat issue.
Kim: What's next for the Habitat group? Are you actually feet on the ground planting things or working with other people who have feet on the ground already planting things?
Dan: There's some upcoming projects. We talk a lot with the bee and butterfly people, Pete Benson. We like that blueprint. Part of this may be getting a little off your subject, but part of our battle in Minnesota it's all, we have to have all native wildflowers. They don't like our honey bees and part of our mission will, we need to maybe steer the conversation or control the message a little bit. Honey bees and native bees can coexist. Like Becky was talking, this graph, we can see the yield per colony go down over the last 20, 30 years. Well that's affecting native bees too. That's food for all pollinators that's going on, not just the honey bee.
We have some stuff, there's a big electrical power grid project or something. Solar panels, 600 acres. We're getting involved with that. I think we're just in our infancy. MnDOT has some programs and we'd like to try to get some pilot project going where we can get roadside ditches. Our roadside ditches in Minnesota are very mismanaged. There's about 500,000 acres of roadside right-of-way, and maybe 170,000 or so acres of MnDOT-controlled right-of-ways. Most areas of the state, especially if it's heavy agriculture, they spray that, it is brown from the ditch to the fence posts. Then in retaliation a few years ago, we used to have roadside mowing.
You couldn't mow and bale until August 15 when the birds got done nesting. A retaliation thing. They opened it up so you can cut and bail that roadside ditch anytime of the year. [laughs] Our ditches are not like even Iowa. You think Iowa, you think corn. You go down, you see the roads in Iowa, we cry. It's a loss opportunity and that's something we need to work at. It's a cultural thing. The farmers, they want go get that free hay because they pay taxes. Also the spring, you get discouraged sometimes and then you got to, I'm not going to let them beat me and I'm going to come back to St. Paul and visit with you all again. We've got our work cut out for us.
Jeff: I imagine that's part of what the Bee Ambassador Program can also do, help deliver that message before they get actually farming level too.
Dan: Here's another problem, we're busy. A lot of your presidents or people that work in organization, we're commercial beekeepers too. It's like, I'm in Texas from November to middle of May, and our legislations, they start meeting in January and things start rolling February, March. We're we're grafting, we're splitting, we're loading semis till midnight. We're not in St. Paul when a lot of that stuff is going on. When your key people are not even-- they're 1,000 miles away or more. We just need to spread the workload out and we just think this Ambassador program's really going to take off and and help us in many ways.
Kim: Ambassador program can certainly begin. Part of the message would be drafting people to start talking to politicians and a ground level action like that is usually very effective. It'll take a while, but it can work.
Dan: Maybe Josh can talk about a little bit too. I know at our summer meeting we had talked about we need like a PowerPoint program or something. We have many beekeepers are willing to go talk to schools and noon the Rotary Club and Lions and stuff like that. Someone can give us a jump drive or something we can go, we can talk, but we just need someone to put the information and talking points together.
We had talked about that, so maybe we can from hi this him being our first and maybe our best ambassador. Maybe we can have acolytes going out. I think we have people that are willing to do it. It's just how and if you have a program that you can take and just take it to wherever and do a slideshow and talk and visit and bring some honey and things like that. I we're excited about that Ambassador program. We Sure. We certainly are.
Rebecca: I think both the Habitat committee and the Ambassador program, they're forcing the Minnesota Honey Producers to really figure out what our messaging is. We know that we have a lot of key issues that we want to be involved with, we want to influence, and we also want to support beekeeping in Minnesota. Both of these programs, we keep coming back to, wait, what are we trying to say? Hopefully, the end result of that will be that we're going to be expressing ourselves very well in the upcoming years.
Kim: Very often it sounds like, which is good. We had Pete on our program here a while back talking about the Bee and Butterfly Program. If people who are listening want to go back and get more depth information on how they work, you can adapt some of that, like you guys are doing here. Use some of that information.
Jeff: A couple years ago, probably during the Pollinator Week series too, in the last couple years. Josh, no pressure on you buddy. How are you going to do all this?
Josh: Yes, no pressure at all. I feel like as so far as ambassador, I've been talking just as much about planting flowers for our pollinators and our bees just as much as I've been talking about and promoting honey. I'm prepared, especially with the curriculum that I build in my school already. I talk, I think more about flowers than I do honey bees at times, because it's such a crucial part of just habitat and keeping bees healthy. That's one project I'm starting at my school, is just flowers. Just planting flowers in places that we can. Hopefully, that motivates other students to maybe in the future think about this program. Somebody's going to have to replace me as an ambassador and hopefully, they have that knowledge to talk about flowers and also honey bees.
Rebecca: You actually play a role in shaping curricula across Minnesota.
Josh: Yes. I've been working with them already throughout the summer, Minnesota Ag in the Classroom. They're a national organization but they also go about from state to state. Been working with Minnesota Ag in the Classroom this summer by phases. Just farms right now, but we're going to get together and help build new curriculum for ag classrooms throughout the state.
This is a really strong opportunity to really get honeybees and pollinators in the classroom. I know there's a lot of curriculum out there, a lot of materials and curriculum, but with the help from commercial beekeepers like Dan and the Minnesota Honey Producers, and the Bee Lab, this curriculum is going to be really talking a lot about these issues and these problems that we definitely have to address.
Jeff: Sounds like a really good program. A lot of opportunities for growth, both for the honey producers and also for the citizens of Minnesota to learn about honeybees. That's great. This time has gone by really quickly. Is there anything we haven't asked you that you really wanted to talk to us about?
Kim: I guess we did it all. [laughs]
Jeff: Yes, we covered it all. It's happy hour. It's time to go. Actually, I'm really excited about the program and what you're doing. It's active, it's engaging, it's innovative. I think it'll lead to a lot of success for you and the Minnesota Honey producers. It's kudos to you all.
Kim: Rebecca, If I wanted to find out more about what the Minnesota Honey producers are doing in terms of all of these things, plus all of the other things you're involved in, I'm guessing you've got a webpage that's going to give me a ton of information?
Rebecca: Absolutely. We're actively working on our webpage right now, but there is information about a couple of our-- the Habitat Hour programs, as well as we have a Bee Yard Match program trying to match beekeepers to landowners in an effort-- that's another Habitat committee effort, but it's minnesotahoneyproducers.com.
Jeff: We'll have those links in our show notes as well.
Kim: We always have a lot of people who want to know more. You know way more than I do, so when they come to me, I just point them in your direction, which is what we want to do. We want to be able to hook up people who want to know with the people who do know.
Rebecca: We have a couple of exciting meetings coming up. The Minnesota Honey Producers are meeting in North Dakota. It's a joint North Dakota, South Dakota Minnesota meeting, but we welcome anybody to come to our summer meetings. Absolutely.
Jeff: What town, what city?
Dan: Fargo, North Dakota. The dates escape me. It's in the second weekend in July. Right across from the shopping mall.
Kim: With beekeepers from those three states, you're going to have what, about 80% of the honey producers in the US there?
Rebecca: Seriously. Walk the halls, it is fun. It is fun to talk to these people. The other thing too that I will promote, I might get in trouble for it, but Marla is planning a retirement, Marla Spivak. Not right now, but in a couple of years. The honey producers are planning a big meeting around that retirement. In that case, I think we'll have beekeepers from almost every state who might want to attend that convention.
Jeff: We'll have to have an onsite podcast recording Kim.
Rebecca: You guys are both invited.
Kim: Sounds good.
Jeff: We really appreciate you taking time this afternoon to join us on Beekeeping Today Podcast and telling us about the Minnesota Honey Producers Association's Ambassador Program, and also the Habitat Program. I know that's just a tip of the iceberg, so we look forward to having you back to keep us up to date with what's going on.
Kim: Thanks a lot for sharing what you guys do. It's offering a lot of people a lot of good information. They are three interesting people, both from a beekeeping perspective and the things that they do with beekeepers and for beekeepers, but I got to tell you, Jeff, I've been associated with Honey Queens for 55 years and it's the step in gender equality that they've taken is just very refreshing for me.
Jeff: I agree with you, Kim. Way back when, and when Sherry was working for the National Honey Board, they would have Honey Queens come in for media training, and we would host the Honey Queens at our house. I always thought it would be better if it was opened up to a broader group and a broader audience for participation. I'm really happy to see the Minnesota Honey producers are expanding the scope of their ambassador program.
Kim: They got a good start with, Josh, I think. He's, boy, hit the ground running, and he's got the background for it. Working with the marines, and working with teaching high school, and doing the things he got, there isn't much he isn't going to be able to have to catch up on to be able to share what the Minnesota Honey Producers are all about.
Jeff: I like what Josh is doing too. His work with the veterans and the Veteran Bee Program is very valuable as we've had guests on talking about-- I just can't thank the volunteers running those programs and the beekeepers who are part of them for the work that they're doing for our veterans.
Kim: The Habitat Program sounds like it's off to a good start. There's a lot of places that are doing similar things. The thing that came up and this discussion was the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing until somebody said, "I'm going to tell you." I'm going to bet that Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Ohio, and Florida don't know what they're doing either each. Not only within a state, but between states. I think this is a good example of what you can accomplish if you raise your hand and say, I can do this.
Jeff: I agree. I'm hoping that other organizations around the country, both in the United States or Canada, or Australia, or any place where you're listening to us, you can use the model that they're using in Minnesota, their Ambassador program, the Habitat program, the Veterans program. Use that as a model for the beekeepers in your region and run with it. It's very successful.
Kim: They're doing a good job.
Jeff: That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast, wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American Beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsor Global Patties. Check them out at globalpatties.com.
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Passionate about agriculture, agriculture education, and working with both urban and rural growers and producers. Josh is the new Minnesota Honey Producers Ambassador. Josh graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor's in Agriculture Communications and Marketing and is now completing a Master's in Agriculture Education.
Josh transitioned out of the Marine Corps in 2014 and has been working with the University of Minnesota Bee Squad since 2018 and is currently an apiary instructor in their Bee Veterans program. He now works as an Agricultural Teacher at Como Park Senior High School, where bees play a central role in his curriculum.
Becky’s enthusiasm for honey bees began during an undergraduate entomology class visit to Dr. Basil Furgala’s University of Minnesota Bee Lab apiary. In 1992, shortly after her first hive visit, she was lucky to be hired as an undergraduate technician by the new UMN Bee Lab leader, Dr. Marla Spivak. Becky went on to study the neuroethology of honey bee hygienic behavior under Dr. Spivak’s direction and obtained a PhD in 2000. After a career in real estate, Becky returned to the Bee Lab in 2012 and led the Bee Squad program from 2013-2019.
Becky joined the MHPA Board as a Director in 2016 and served for 6 years. Now Becky manages her own apiaries and co-writes the Minding Your Bees and Cues with the current Bee Squad Program Director, Bridget Mendel, for Bee Culture Magazine
Owner Dan’s Honey Co. and Whitney LoneStar Queen Co.
I started commercial beekeeping in 1994. We currently run 2000 colonies for honey production in MN during the summer. We bring the bees to East Texas from Nov. to May. We raise about 4000 mated queens, graft over 20,000 queen cells, and sell around 1500 5-frame nucs each spring in Texas.
We have a mix of 5 full time and part time employees through the H2A program.My wife is highly allergic to bee stings, so she keeps the books. We have 3 children and 2 grandchildren. We split our time between Texas and Minnesota. (about 7 months in Texas)
I’ve served on the ABF board for a few years back in the early 2000’s and served 9 years as president and vice president of the Minnesota Honey Producers Assn.
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